Respect, the party set up by the controversial George Galloway, yesterday named black activist Lee Jasper as its candidate in the Croydon North by-election, expected to be held on November 29.
That date is six months to the day since Galloway won a shock victory in a by-election in Bradford West. Last night he was predicting, “we’ll provide all the excitement” in the Croydon by-election.
While Labour risks being becalmed by another six days of internal campaigning for their party’s nomination, Galloway says that he will take a high-profile in Respect’s campaign, where he will personally act as the organiser in a campaign that is “visible, enthusiastic and original”.
Although Galloway appears not to know where Croydon is, describing it as being in south-west London, he has studied the demographics. In a podcast he repeatedly refers to 10,000 Muslims in Croydon North whom he feels are ripe to support Respect after western wars against Muslims. He also says that 26 per cent of the population of Croydon North that is black, a community that he claims votes Respect. This overlooks the 2010 General Election result, when Respect gained just 272 votes or 0.5 per cent of the overall vote in Croydon North.
Croydon North has shocked before though when as Croydon North-West it returned a Liberal-Democrat in another autumnal by-election, in 1981, with a massive 24.2 per cent swing from the then incumbent, Thatcher-led Conservatives.
Galloway’s dissection of the electorate on racial grounds will concern Croydon community leaders keen to recover Croydon North from its trauma of the 8/8 riots just 14 months ago.
There is fertile ground for Respect to plough after the ugly racial divide on show at Croydon Council recently with a white mayor threatening to expel a mainly black, protesting audience that watched as mainly white councillors closed a black school while claiming that white children were more deserving, and which heard overtly racist remarks about travellers by Conservative Councillor Donald Speakman, who called for the deportation of travellers.
Galloway describes Jasper as “a legend”. Jasper certainly will be the best-dressed candidate with his noted penchant for expensive and sharply cut suits.
He’ll likely be controversial as well, as Jasper, the former adviser to Ken Livingstone when he was Mayor of London, feels strongly that he was victimised by Andrew Gilligan of the Evening Standard in a campaign of vilification that eventually led to Jasper’s resignation just before the 2008 London election over an allegedly sexist e-mail.
These accusations of sexism may resonate into the Croydon North campaign after Galloway’s own comments about Julian Assange’s alleged rapes in Sweden amounting to little more than “really bad manners” and “bad sexual etiquette”, remarks that led to the resignation in disgust of Salma Yaqoob, the Respect leader.
Jasper, who had attended police meetings in Croydon after last August’s riots, only joined Respect in June, just weeks after Livingstone had lost the latest Mayoral election. Some suggested that this move by Jasper is one last lunge to restore a political career.
During this spring’s campaign, Livingstone had made clear that Jasper would not have a place in a returning mayoralty team, but Galloway is keen to promote Jasper as “Livingstone’s right-hand man” who was ” trusted by Mayor Livingstone”. Galloway treats Jasper as some kind of incumbent who had his hands on the “real levers of power”.
Galloway says his candidate will appeal to Croydon North working people and overthrow Labour’s “one-party state” in Croydon North by being the “only candidate who offers anything different”, dismissing Labour, the LibDems and the Conservatives as being all just one part of three cheeks on the same back side.
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- George Galloway: is Bradford losing respect for its maverick MP? (guardian.co.uk)
- Conservatives face ‘crushing defeat’ in Corby by-election (standard.co.uk)
- Cross-party tributes to late MP (bbc.co.uk)